How Do Pets Contribute to Indoor Air Pollution?

From children of all ages to adults and seniors, pets play an important role in the family dynamic. There are benefits to being a pet owner, such as having a companion if you are single, or helping to lower stress and blood pressure. In seniors, the role of pets helps prevent depression and can help avoid the frustrations of aging since there is a furry friend that requires their attention.

cat and dog sleeping together

However, what many people may not realize is that pets and indoor air quality go hand-in-hand . Pets shed hair and skin cells (dander), just like humans do. Excess pet dander and hair in the home lowers the overall air quality. If you or someone in the home suffers from allergies, you may notice you are sneezing more often, experiencing itchy or running eyes more frequently, or having problems breathing.

Unlike humans, pets tend to shed much more. Pet hair and dander can get into all sorts of places too, such as:

  • On Furniture
  • Under Sofa and Chair Cushions
  • In Bedding
  • Under Beds
  • In Closets
  • In Cracks and Crevices
  • Along Baseboards
  • In Air Ducts

Keeping pet hair and dander to a minimum requires pet parents to perform some added housekeeping chores more often. Ideally, pet owners should sweep, dust, and vacuum at least weekly. All bedding should also be laundered on a weekly basis.

In addition, your home’s air conditioning and heating filters need to be replaced more often. Pet hair and dander are easily blown around the home and sucked into the return air vent. The filter blocks most of this but does become dirtier faster.

dirty air filter

As a result, we highly recommend checking your AC filter once a month and replacing it when needed. Even if you have a “pet” air filter installed that says it only needs to be replaced every three months, it does not mean it cannot quickly get clogged with pet hair and dander.

Clogged Air Filters Increase AC Repair Services

Dirty and clogged air filters cause your air conditioning to work harder. You may notice a spike in your utility bill because the AC has to run longer to achieve the same cooling effects. Additionally, since the AC is running longer, it places more strain on the unit that can lead to overheating, frozen cooling coils, and a host of other problems.

Furthermore, this added wear and tear on the system shortens the expected lifespan of the entire system. The same is true during the winter months, here in Tampa, when you might need to turn on the heat to warm up your home. Whether you have a “combo” unit or separate furnace and air conditioning system, clogged air filters damage your home’s HVAC system.

women hugging a dog

Clogged Air Filters and AC Ducts

Pets and air quality issues extend into the ducts running throughout your home. Depending on the age of your home, you may have floor ducts, where the ductwork is under the subflooring or ceiling ducts. With floor ducts, you have other things to worry about with pet ownership aside from pet dander and hair.

  • Toys – Your cat or dog could accidentally drop a toy down through the openings in floor ducts. The toys have your pet’s saliva on them and could even contain food particles, pet dander, pet hair, and bacteria.
  • Pet Food – If pet food falls down into the ductwork, not only does it have bacteria and pet saliva on it, but it can also attract unwanted pests like mice and roaches.
  • Kitty Litter – If your cat likes to bat kitty litter around when using the litter box, and it gets down into your ducts, it could have urine and feces on it. Over time, this can make your house smell like one giant litter box!
  • Dirt – Dogs go in and out of the home and can track dirt, mud, feces, and other such materials into the home on their fur and paws. If they walk over open floor ducts, these things can fall into the ducts. The same is true if you let your cat outside from time to time.

If your home has floor air ducts, we highly recommend to include an inspection of your ductwork during your annual or bi-annual AC maintenance and tune-up visits. This way, if foreign objects, pet hair, and dander are an issue, you can have them cleaned to help maintain better indoor air quality in your home.

technician working on air duct

For ceiling ducts, pet hair and dander can still be a problem. It does not hurt to get annual inspections. During inspections, your AC repair technician will look for gaps, openings, and other areas where the ducts are not properly sealed.

Improperly sealed ductwork can also contribute to increased air pollution in the home, as well as increase your heating and cooling costs. For instance, if there is a large enough gap in between two duct sections, cooled or heated air is escaping.

As this air is blown out, it can create a suction force that draws in outdoor air or interior wall air, which can also contain dirt and dust. In homes with pets, pet hair and dander can be blown out of the openings as well as drawn back in, which further reduces indoor air quality.

In addition, in newer homes, rather than traditional metal ductwork, some builders are opting to use heavy plastic ducts instead. While these certainly cost less, they can easily get punctured, torn, and ripped. This can introduce even more contaminants into the home, including animal dander and hair from outdoor animals that might gain entry through the crawl space under your home!

two grey mice

How Duct Sealing Helps Improve Indoor Air Quality

When your ductwork has been properly sealed by your air duct repair technician, including around the air vents that are in the rooms in your home, there are fewer potential entry points into the home’s cooling and heating system for pet dander, pet hair, and other contaminants.

With floor ducts, it is highly recommended to have fine mesh screens installed as part of the sealing process. This way, the screens catch pet dander, hair, food, toys, and kitty litter and keep them out of the ducts.

Other Air Quality Tips for Pet Owners

Aside from your regular housekeeping chores, there are other things pet owners can do to help reduce the amount of pet hair and dander that gets distributed around the home, into return air vent filters, and ducts.

  • Brush your pets every few days. Pets shed a lot! You would be surprised by how fast a pet brush or comb gets filled with their pet hair. If you get into the habit of brushing your cats or dogs more often, they will have less hair to shed. Plus, your cats or dogs will appreciate the attention they are getting and will start to look forward to “brush-time.”
  • Move pet items away from floor ducts and the return air vent. Keep pet food, water, bedding, litter boxes and other such items away from floor air ducts, as well as the return air vent. Moving these items away will reduce the number of items that get into ducts, as well as sucked into the air filter.
  • Give your dog a bath regularly. Since dogs spend time indoors and outdoors, they can start to smell really bad. Weekly baths not only help keep your dog from stinking but also wash out pet dander and any pet hair you missed during brushings.

A word about baths and cats: We wouldn’t recommend giving cats a bath—not unless they like playing in the water and are accustomed to it. You can talk to your vet about a waterless shampoo for your cats to help keep them smelling great if they spend any time outdoors.

cat starring out a window on a rainy day

We hope these tips and suggestions will help enable you to better control pet dander and pet hair in your home while keeping your home’s AC and heating system running smoothly. If you haven’t had AC maintenance and tuneup service in a while, want to get your ducts inspected, or have questions about duct sealing, please feel free to contact Air Rescue at 813.375.9982 today for service in the entire Tampa Bay area!

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